2012 Race Reports: Tarheel 10-Miler

Race: Tarheel-10 Miler City: Chapel Hill, NC   Date: 4/21/2012

Distance: 10 miles

Weather: nice, yet humid (mid-to-upper 60s), cloudy, at times a little sun.

Course: Around the campus of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – an aptly named town… and longer than advertised…

Summary: did not make my goal and was late to start… (sigh).

Pre-Race

After a little hunting around, I finally found (and transferred) the race report from 2 years ago for the one and so far only race I have not finished. As I admitted to a friend recently: I don’t let go of things easily. I wish I did, but I don’t. I acknowledge that I do it. I try to let go, but occasionally I am reminded of things that burn me and it gnaws at me, even when I later succeed. It has been two years and I have even done this particular race successfully since, yet, that damn Fleet Feet 4-Miler from 2010 *still* haunts me. And, unfortunately for me, I took it a little too close to the vest this year. I did well and I enjoyed the run itself, but there were factors about it that reminded me of the Fleet Feet Four Disaster, as I’ve come to call it.

If you’ve read my post from the 2011 Tarheel 10 Miler, you may remember how I referenced the debacle of the “Fleet Feet Four Incident” – everything from almost taking out a pedestrian to ending up lost on the campus with bloodied feet. I rectified that last year: I had a successful run, inside of my goal and I didn’t get lost on the course or on campus (although, last year I was with someone who went to school at UNC and knew his way around, so I just followed him). This year, I wanted to improve even on that. I knew most of the course, because I had done it before. I knew when I could speed up. I knew when I should slow down. I knew better how to pace myself overall, and have practiced and worked hard at it. I felt ready. I even carb and hydration loaded appropriately before.

I was ready. Physically, at least.

I enlisted friends to join me because racing with friends is always more fun. So, luckily for me, a couple of my friends joined me at the race: One a “virtual” friend that I met in person for the first time who lives in a town a few hours away, the other one of my regular run buddies. I knew it was unlikely that we would be running together the entire race, but it was still nice to have the experience of doing the same race, someone to look for on the course, and have some folks to compare notes with after all was said and done.

The three of us are all part of a virtual running group – as I call it – which has yielded many friends for me, and I have raced with several of them in Virginia Beach, New Orleans, Las Vegas, a few locally, including an 8K Green Run, and now this race. All have been wonderful people and it has been a pleasure putting a face and personality with a screen name. For that reason, I was delighted when one of the locals in our virtual group that wasn’t even running the race organized a pre-race dinner to meet our traveling race buddy and get to know him in person. Due to scheduling, only four of us were able to go, but it was great meeting (and probably scaring) my friend that traveled here to run this race as much as it was great reconnecting with a couple of friends I have not seen in a while.

After dinner, I headed back home. It had been a long, stressful week in many ways. Thankfully, my local running buddy that was also running the Tarheel 10-miler (his longest so far) was kind enough to pick up my packet for me the day before, so that was just one less thing to stress about. I came home and prepared my clothes (NCSU Red shirt, of course), set up the coffee maker and crawled into bed, ready for a restful sleep.

Race Day

A restful sleep – for the first time that week – was what I got. I don’t think I moved all night. I woke up and got out of bed at the second alarm – around 5:15 – and went through my usual routine of shower, coffee, hydrate, stretch. Unfortunately, a big dinner the night before with a dash of anxiety and a side of stress means no morning appetite for me, so I didn’t eat at home, though, I brought a banana, just in case. In my usual OCD way, I checked, rechecked and checked one more time all the stuff I had and wanted to bring, made use of indoor plumbing one more time before I left and was out the door and on the road by 6:15, about the same as last year. I was thinking about the most direct route I could find and decided that one of the back highways up to I-40 would be the best way to go – most direct – and there would be no traffic at 6:15 in the morning on a Saturday.

I was right until I got about 2 miles in on Highway 54 in Chapel Hill… which had become a parking lot by the time I got there. ugh. I sat in traffic for about 10 minutes before it occurred to me that my local running buddy was also coming into town and that I should warn him that it was a nightmare. I sent that message at 6:59 – I was there in PLENTY of time to park as the race didn’t start until 7:30. I kept saying to myself: I don’t remember this mess last year, so maybe it’ll move fast.

It didn’t.

Eventually, at a little after 7:20, I did get to 15-501 and then onto the south side of campus where I eventually parked in one of what I later found out were *several* S11 parking lots on campus. I rushed out of the car, still swallowing the banana that I crammed into my mouth and hoping that I put my car key in the right slot of my pink “luggage” that I carried with me and ran up to the start.

As an aside – in addition to admitting I can’t let go of things easily, I also admitted that my sense of direction, sense of elevation and sense of distance (though this one is improving) are – let’s be charitable – lacking. so… I have no idea exactly how far it was from my car to the start, but it took me over 10 minutes because I ran through the gates of Kenan Stadium at 7:33, according to my Garmin. And, my friends, I ran most of that – up a hill (warm up, you know).

After running through the gates, I ran (literally) into the bathroom and cut a girl off for the next available stall – I feel bad about it now, but my frenzied logic was that I was late and she didn’t even have a bib on. I emptied the tank, washed up, and literally ran out of the bathroom and down the stairs of Kenan Stadium. To this moment, I cannot tell you how I did not fall and bust my ass doing that, but (thankfully for me) grace prevailed and I was on my way. I rounded the corner, got my Garmin ready and ran across the start line – shouting a well known expletive starting with the letter F as I started because my Garmin didn’t lock and I paused it accidentally. Once I got it started, I looked up and there was my local running buddy! yay! I ran up beside him and, because he’s a lot like me in personality, I figured he was stressing out as much as I was. We chatted for the first two miles, then he had to make a pit stop, so I told him I’d see him at the finish and went on.

I did not have time to prepare for the use of music, so I didn’t have any this race, which turned out to be a good thing, I think. It made me more aware of my running, and of the course. I got past the three mile marker and then I zoned out, just enveloped in all kinds of thoughts about the stresses of the week, letting all my worries – temporarily at least – seep out of my pores as I started picking up the pace a little. However… I started to notice, shortly after I split from my local race buddy, that my Garmin was over on distance by .25 of a mile. Hm… Maybe a small blip that will sort out once we get farther out in the course.

Because I was running a faster pace than most of the people I encountered at this point in the race, I was passing folks a lot. It wasn’t terribly crowded, so passing wasn’t as annoying as it can tend to be up front – lemonade, my friends. This also gave me an opportunity to seek out a few NCSU fans – emphasis on “few” at this point in the race. I did pass one girl in NCSU stuff who looked like she might actually still be in college who was walking – I gave her the wolf and a ‘you got this’ and made her smile which made me feel good. Then I passed her. A lot of the spectators were calling out the Duke fans, and just ignoring me. haha. That’s Tobacco Road Rivalry for you…

Then, I got to Franklin Street. This is the scene of my failure 2 years ago, and despite my successful passage of it last year, it still haunted me. I don’t remember Franklin Street’s hills as much last year, but this year, I felt them. It made me push harder on them, though, to pass the spot where I gave up two years ago. As a result (and not of any surprise to me) those were my two fastest miles (it is between mile markers 4 and 5 on the route so the anxiety leading to four and the exhilaration of coming out of it on 5).

Once I passed that spot, though, I started to relax a little and actually enjoy the run. I let the sound of my race partners’ shoes be my music and I focused on preparing myself mentally for the hill I knew I had ahead. I went through the first neighborhood, looking for my virtual running buddy as I went in (I didn’t see him) and then looking for my local running buddy as I left (I didn’t see him either). Then, on to the second neighborhood – where I looked for my virtual buddy going in (didn’t see him) and my local running buddy as I left (I did see him and cheered him on!). Excited that I knew he was doing well, I moved on to Laurel Hill Road… still over on mileage, though, by as much as 1/3 of a mile at this point. HHHmmm…

My friends… I didn’t have time to worry about the mileage though… I had a hill to think about. I have discussed this road before. At this time last year, this might have been the toughest hill I’ve run. Here’s what I wrote last year:

Thank God, THANK GOD, we drove it the night before. I had dreams about this hill and I had anxiety about it the entire first 8 1/2 miles of the race. I even thought at one point that ignorance might have been bliss for me – not knowing what was ahead so I didn’t have to dread it… that is until I got to the bottom of it I looked up it. Had I been blissfully ignorant of it, I might have thought that it was a shorter or less steep hill (it curved so you really can’t see how long or steep from the bottom) and taken it way too fast and had to stop or hurt myself. But… when I got to it and looked up, knowing what I knew, I found it daunting, for sure, but I knew how long it was and I said to myself “just slow down – you only have 1 1/2 miles to go and you’re on target for time” and I took it. It was very tough – very steep at the start (you should see the elevation charts for it) and then it fakes you out with a “flat” part only to be followed by yet another steep (maybe even steeper than the first – who knows, I was so out of it by this point) hill behind a curve. Just mean. I have never, ever, ever been so happy to see a smaller hill in my life as I was when I climbed the hill right after (yes, I said right after) this hill. This is going down in my books as one of the tougher runs I’ve done.

Since then, I’ve run on California, Filbert, Hyde, and Lombard Streets in San Fransisco – and could hardly walk the next day – so I felt like I was ready for what Laurel Hill had to give to me because, to me, in comparison, this hill was but a bump in the road.

My friends… I’m sad to report that it was still daunting to me and I let my ego get the better of me. I took that hill way too fast at the start… I even had the same kind of pep talk with myself about it “just slow down, you can do this”. I can, if I had listened to myself. As my parents unfortunately are aware, I don’t listen to anybody… including myself. Because I thought I was ahead of the game and I had the time, I ended up trying to keep my pace at 9 minutes and burned out about half way up. I did walk twice – though it was just yards each time – but the walking at all was a little bit of a blow to my ego and I got annoyed about it. How could this hill hurt me this year when it didn’t last year? How could I be so good at pacing myself the whole damn race just to blow it here?

SIGH.

I knew as I rounded the corner of the pseudo crest of the hill (I knew it wasn’t the end of the torture because I hadn’t yet seen the final split mat for the Laurel Hill Split) that I wasn’t going to beat my time from the previous year and was upset about it. I knew I wouldn’t beat my time because I knew I was carrying around an extra .25 mile and it pissed me off because my pace was actually lower than last year throughout – .25 mile might not seem like a big deal, but it really is. At a 9 minute pace (close to what I was doing, just under that, but for round numbers to make the math easier) that’s an extra 2:15 – not insignificant. When my goal is to shave off 00:30, an extra 2:15 worth of mileage means I have to run much, much faster and I just didn’t have it, especially after getting my ass handed to me by Laurel Hill Road.

I felt deflated.

I perked up a bit as I rounded the corner to the stadium and could hear the band playing and people cheering – I finished with a gun time of 1:41:48 (after a 13 minute late start, can’t complain about that too much…) a chip AND Garmin time of 1:30:04 (that hardly ever happens to me), though, Garmin had a distance of 10.28, so something between was actual.

My out of town race buddy finished first, then me, then my local race buddy, who completed his longest race yet and inside his goal! We got food, water and compared notes on the race and then headed home… when I got lost on campus looking for my car. Again. (sigh).

Learnings

As far as training goes, 90 mile months have worked well for me. Other than the incident on Laurel Hill, I felt really good the vast majority of this race. I have been working on my core, and I can tell it is starting to pay off. The one key thing I need to learn now is how to work within, while trying to gradually stretch, my limits – and to keep doing what I’ve had success doing in the last couple of months.

Otherwise, I could stand a geography lesson for the town of Chapel Hill, the campus of UNC specifically. I am *sick* of losing my car and my way around that campus, especially when there are no restrooms… grr.

Next year. Just wait. Next year…

2010 Race Report: Fleet Feet 4-Miler

I’m moving an older post from 2 years ago about this race – a concurrent/companion race to the Tarheel 10-miler – for reference… I wrote this in 2010 for a different blog – and so far my only “did not finish” race:

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Fleet Feet 4-Miler (Chapel Hill, NC)

sigh   I was due a bad race…  glad I got it out of the way so close to my  HM  so I can shake it off and move on… Having said that, it wasn’t  all  “bad” – just not as expected… that’s probably a better way to  describe  it…

Pre-pre-race:  looking back, this should have  been an omen, but at the time, it just  seemed like a bunch of bad things  happening independently of each other  – now, I’m not so convinced. I  told you all about my little sock-less  escapade in the Kayanos for the  sake of “getting one in” on Monday –  well, that was the only run I had  this week because it tore my feet  up (as it turns out). The blisters  burst and my feet were a total mess  Thursday and Friday. Thursday, I  tried to get my packet – drove all the  way from downtown Raleigh to  Carborro (about 30 miles) only to miss  the packet pick up by 10 minutes  (Fleet Feet in Carborro is apparently  very serious about closing at 7).  Tried again on Friday to get my  packet – got all the way there (barely)  in time – get my NCSU red party  crasher bib (awesome – has a removable  chip in an envelope in the back  that you take out after the race so you  don’t have to wait in line for  someone to cut it off!) and very cute  T-shirt (even if it does have  “Tarheel” on it… might still wear it –  ha ha) and got back into my  car. Well… Fleet Feet is in the shopping  center that is – at best – a  cluster-(well placed explative). So, to say  the least, I was having a  really hard time figuring out how to get the h  out of that parking lot.  I finally figured it out and blew through a  pedestrian cross that I  didn’t see – in front of Carborro’s Finest. So,  being the good girl  that I am, I pull over and… (another well placed  explative) left my  wallet on my desk at work. Really? The guy was nice  about it since I  was very apologetic and it was clear that I never  come up there, he  let me off with a Warning. I think it was fairly  obvious when I didn’t  have any idea what he was talking about – you mean  you have cross-walks  outside of intersections? not used to that…  seriously, they have  cross-walks every 20 yards or so in Carborro – not  just at  intersections (of which there are also plenty). Not really a  shocker I  didn’t see it (upon second pass, I see why – it wasn’t painted  on the  street but, there were signs… just didn’t expect it… now I  do).  That meant I had to drive all the way back to my office to get my   wallet – I didn’t get home until after 9 and blew through about 1/2 a tank of gas on this little escapade.

I  had decided  that, since this one was so close to my HM, I wouldn’t try  to PR it or  go crazy. I just wanted to get the same splits or close to  the same  splits as last year’s 4-miler (8:44 splits) and I thought  that was  doable, even this close to my HM and with my foot injuries. I  didn’t  even wear my heart rate monitor or my gps – I even carried  around my  Canon G10 (I’m a bit of a shutterbug and that is my   ‘take-with-me-everywhere-but-a-race’ camera)… that’s how I approached   this race. The most important thing to me was that I was decked out in   my NCSU stuff running through UNC campus.

Pre-race:  I slept in my clothes  to save time. Good thing I did… Overnight, my  3yo decided he had to  have Mommy-snuggle-time at 2 AM and crawled into  bed with me. He tossed  and turned and slapped me around and snored  until my alarm went off at  5AM, at which point he instructed me to turn  it off and was seriously  cranky. At around 5:15, I got up to start  getting ready, and he started  crying because he wanted me to “snuggle  wif” him. awwww… what a heart  breaker! so… I got a pretty late  start after giving a few more  snuggles, wrapping up my feet and waiting  for their Dad to get up to  come soothe them. Finally got my oatmeal  and coffee in me and I was out  the door by around 6:15 (about 15  minutes later than I wanted). The  whole way to Chapel Hill, I thought  the race started at 7, (it started  at 7:30), so I was stressing out  about where to park, (there were a lot  of other events on the UNC  campus today, in addition to the race, and  they threatened to tow your  car if you didn’t park in the right place).  Parking was over a mile  away from the start! yeah – really. It wasn’t  until I got to Chapel  Hill that I discovered I had an extra 30 minutes  to go to the bathroom.  Thank God. I start the trek toward the start  area, and saw a MAN  wearing a run skirt! That was a first. I did a  double check to make  sure – it was absolutely a run skirt (I wear those a  lot, so I tend to  notice them). I finally got to the start area, used  the bathroom and  started walking around to figure out where I was  supposed to go. One  thing I regret now (and you’ll know why in a bit) is  that I didn’t look  at the 10-miler route. I assumed they were starting  in the same place,  but I didn’t see signs for anything other than the  10, except for a  few signs that also had the 4miler logo on it. Truth be  told, I still  don’t know. Maybe I’ll bring myself to look at the map  tomorrow, but  I’m still too annoyed tonight. As I asked around, none of  the workers  seemed to know and most of the folks seemed to be there for  the  10-miler, but I saw signs here and there that had the 4-miler, so I   assumed I was in the right place so I located the 9mm section of the   corral and picked out a good spot, I turned up my iPod to the perfect song for me today, on 11, and waited for the gun to go off.

Race:   One of the few races I’ve been in where we actually started on time!    Woo hoo! I started off pretty slow because of my feet – once I got  about  a half a mile into it, they stopped hurting quite as bad (that  is,  until I got into the shower – ouch!) but as the crowd thinned out,  I  started passing folks and ended up behind the 9mm pacer. I kept up  with  two women who I traded leads with – one I called black skirt girl  who  ran the same pace as me until we got to the 2nd big hill and then I  lost  her. The other was a cancer patient, and I was almost in tears  running  with her. She was amazing! We pretty much ran the same pace,   occasionally trading leads most of the time I ran (untill I stopped and   she passed me – more about that in a minute). All was great through  Mile  3 – I started, however, getting to the point where I was looking  for  where we turned off at around where I thought (based on my time)  should  be about 3.5 miles –  because we were supposed to finish inside  Kenan  Stadium, where UNC plays their football games. I didn’t see one.

Hmmm…. Then, I passed by the 4-mile marker and it was… a water   table! huh? Wow – Kenan Stadium looks soooo much bigger (and less   industrial) on TV. I glance down at my watch – I’m right at 33 minutes   (actually, way better than I expected to be), but I thought “Ok, maybe   they did it backwards, because, you know, I didn’t see a 1-mile marker,   right?” so I kept going… until I realized we were running on  Franklin  Street – huh? I don’t remember Franklin Street on the 4-mi  route?!?! I  stopped to ask someone “you know, it seems like this is the  10-mile  route – did I miss the 4-mile finish” ‘Oh, no” she assures me  “it is  just ahead” Ok, so I keep going. My legs are about to give out,  though,  because I only prepared for 4 miles, but I wanted to make sure  I  finished running, so I continue… until I pass the marker for 5  miles.  For a fleeting moment, I thought to myself “well… I could keep  going  and see how far down 10 I can get – you never know… maybe I  can  finish…” but I had to stop myself there – I didn’t want to hurt   myself. I was getting tired. My feet were hurting (and later I found  out  they were bleeding), and my legs were starting to feel weak. I had  to  stop. I was so disappointed. Really – either I picked the wrong  start,  or there was ONE sign for the 4-miler split off and I missed it  while I  was playing with my iPod or getting a bit of water or  something. Who  knows. I’ll find out more tomorrow when I look up the  routes again. The  good news is, even with the stops, I was still  (unofficially) under a  9mm.

*Post-Race: After  I realized I was on  the wrong path – and only at the half-way mark of  the 10-miler at that –  I realized there was no way to salvage my  “official” time – and I had  already run a mile more than I planned for,  so I was pretty happy with  what I did, but I still felt like a looser  walking! I know I shouldn’t  but… eh, I do. I cut across campus to  head back to the REAL Kenan  Stadium (which, by the way, is huge –  though not as big as  Carter-Finley… our stadium –  and does look the  same on TV as in  person… very light blue….) so I can drop off my  chip. Just to add  icing to my $*t cake, I got lost on campus. Really? I  couldn’t believe  it. I took me almost an hour to find the stadium! Wow!  I was so tired by  then – and thirsty (I had finished off the water in  my Nathan hand  held) – not to mention hungry and increasingly  frustrated about being  lost. I finally found the stadium, returned my  chip (and was a wee bit  jealous of the folks running INTO the stadium)  grabbed a banana a couple  of drinks and headed out back to my car…  where I got lost… again.  Remember I told you it was about a mile  between where I parked and where  we started? Well… I thought I  remembered where we started (we didn’t  finish where we started, which  was my first mistake) and I went in the  opposite direction from where I  should have been going. Another 45  minutes later, I finally found my  car. Grrrrrr…. I probably ended up  walking another 10-miles beyond  the 5 I ran, lol.  My 5yo started a  Soccer league and I got there late not to mention I was bursting at the seams, if you know  what I mean. I have had enough of port-a-johns today!!

Overall, I thought the course (at least the first half of the 10-miler) was great – a bit hilly, but I’m used to that. So pretty, though. They had pacers in red shirts with their pace on the back of their shirts –   that’s the first time I’ve seen that and it was a pretty nice touch.   They also had a group of guys on bikes who rode along side the runners to protect them from traffic – also a very nice touch! Lots of water stations, mile markers at EVERY mile (ended up seeing the 1-mile marker on one of my wondering around/getting lost trips), a LOT of pre-race communication (which was helpful) and the removable chip – and, running inside the stadium looked like it was pretty cool. Had it not been for the 4-miler snafu, I would have marked this down as one of the better races I’ve participated in! I have already filled out the survey for this race and rated everything but the signs and the volunteers’ knowledge of the race information highly. I think I might do it again next year, but I’ll run the 10-miler!! ha ha. At least then, I’ll know where I’m going!

Hope you all have a good  night!

Unrecorded

I don’t typically write about the mundane training tasks I undertake on a relative daily basis for a reason: they’re mundane. Ho hum. Ran 3 miles and it was fine. Ho hum: swam. and stunk. Ho hum: rode a stationary cylce and was spinning at an average of 30 mph for an hour and now I can’t walk. You would never ever read this blog if I did that. I keep that kind of stuff to the 140 character or less mantra and contain it to RunKeeper.

Today was different though:  I ran an unrecorded run today.

No Garmin. No RunKeeper. No phone. Until about 10 minutes ago, no computer either (long story… I would have totally posted this from my phone, though). I was kind of freaking out, honestly, but after it was over, I thought: I’m writing about this on the blog tonight so they get something better than “ho hum: ran a race” or “ho hum: still love RunKeeper”.

In the over 2 years since I started my post-kid running, I have yet to do one where I didn’t at least try to estimate the time and/or distance and get my avearge pace (let alone splits). I’ll be the first to admit it: I’m additcted to my stats. My run buddies (I have 2 – more on them in another post) both have made fun of me for my, uh, precision, when it comes to my running path, especially since both of them tend to like to cut across the road and cut the corner. Not me. I map it out. I measure it on the Garmin. Then, I turn on RunKeeper and record it and take averages. I go all the way to the end of the sidewalk and then I make a sharp right turn.

Yeah, I’m one of those.

So… I tell you all this so you understand why today was kind of a big deal to me. I was, for a lack of a better term, naked.

It all started in the dressing room of my office gym. Actually, it all started about a week ago – my last run. I haven’t been in a week because, honestly, I’m worried about IT Band issues again (now on my left – my strong leg!) and that I pulled something in my left foot (praying it wasn’t the worst case scenario – sf or planar facitis) so I took a week off (which, by the way, are both feeling fine after today’s run, thankfully).

To combat the jumpy legs, I did yard work. Not running or cycling, but still strenuous enough to get my energy channeled in the right direction. I had a run planned today, though, with my running buddy #2 and I was pretty excited about it. It is the same guy that ran the Tarheel 10-miler with me and he tends not to like running in the rain all that much, but the rain let up quite a bit by our run appointment and he told me “it’s your call”. Personally, I love the rain run, so I suggested we go outside.

I unpack my stuff only to find a dead Garmin and a missing waterproof case for my iPhone. doh. I’ll be damned, though, I waited a week to run and it was perfect running weather – mid-60s, overcast and a smidge drizzly. I was going outside naked, damnit.

I was so excited to be outside running that I kept telling myself not to think about not being recorded, but I’ll be honest – I missed it at first. That first tell tale beep of my Garmin, each mile ticking away – confirming that my heart rate was way too high, peeking at my pace as I went. I missed it, missed it, missed it. But, after I got over the initial shock of being unrecorded, I started to just focus on the run itself, which is something I hadn’t done in years. I listened to the sounds my shoes made on the pavement. I thought about how my legs were operating – and realized why I was having pain (and hopefully corrected that a little). I actually took a look around at the neighborhoods – and the people in them – that we ran through.

The most interesting part of this run for me, however, wasn’t even the fact that I was “naked” or that I didn’t measture anything. It was  the route. I live in Raleigh, NC and as you may have seen from the national news, we got a slew of tornados that ran through our town last weekend. One went through downtown. I ran through the aftermath of that – now 5 days later. It was pretty sobering. I thought many times about turning and just going north or heading west, but I didn’t – I kept going south and east until I started having to dodge trees and could smell the fumes from the chain saws and the aroma of fresh cut wood. At points, I was tripping over roof shingles in the road.

five. days. later.

I shutter to think what it looked like 5 days ago.

So, in light of that experience, suddenly the Garmin, the RunKeeper, distance, pace, time, splits…

none of that mattered.

2011 Race Reports: Tarheel 10-Miler

Race: Tarheel-10 Miler City: Chapel Hill, NC   Date: 4/9/2011

Distance: 10 miles / 4 miles – I did the 10 mile race (first at this distance!)

Weather: awesome. Cool-ish (lower 60s), cloudy, at times a little light mist, but no actual rain.

Course: streets, and hilly… ohhhh, so hilly. Good practice for UT and OR races, maybe???

Summary: The Tarheel-10 Miler and I are back on speaking terms. Oh, and I beat my goal… I think.

Pre-Race

Many of you were not around for the disaster that was the Fleet Feet 4-miler for me last year, so feel free to look back to the archive to see why this was *such* a big deal to me. I quit that race last year. I’m not a quitter, usually, so it has bugged me to no end since then. This year, I wanted redemption – plus 6 miles – so I registered for the 10-miler instead. I got what I was after and so much more: the additional  6 miles, a nasty hill, and a Running Buddy waiting for me at the end to congratulate (and thank) me.

The night before the race, I went to pick up the packet in the Franklin Hotel as they were having an “expo”. I was anxious about this race for a while, because of last year, so I wanted to pick up my packet the day before. I wanted to be on the start line on time. I wanted to make sure I had time to walk the mile+ from my car to start. I wanted to make sure I didn’t get pulled over by a cop for blowing through a pedestrian cross-walk. Met the Running Buddy that I’ve been training with over the last couple of months at the “expo” and we got our bibs and shirts. Unfortunately, it wasn’t much of an expo – I guess they called it that because Fleet Feet (the sponsor of the 4 mile race) was there selling a boat load of last year’s shoes and some stickers. We didn’t get a bag, AND the t-shirts were the same as last year… sheesh. One big improvement, though, is the tag. Loved the tagging system this year – if I did have to quit, I wouldn’t have had to get lost through campus again to return it as was the case last year. Thankfully, that wasn’t an issue this year, but it was a relief nonetheless.

Thankfully, the packet pickup was pretty uneventful: no cops (incidentally without a driver’s license),  getting lost or almost mowing down pedestrians. The most exciting thing was the spice on our pasta. We got our bibs and shirts and then went for a pasta dinner and drove the course to see what we were to expect. I think I must have scared him a little about the hills because I intentionally picked the nastiest hills I could find in Raleigh for our long trainer runs that he often complained about (he’s a much better hill runner than me, but I guess nobody really likes hills…). We got to Laurel Hill, though, and we both went silent. I don’t think either of us expected that. As we drove up it, we got a little salty about the <expletive> hill at the end of the race. Were they crazy?

We went our separate ways, I ran a few errands and went home to lay out all my stuff, plug in all my toys and go to bed. I’m always like a kid at Christmas the night before a run – I can barely sleep. My mind was just racing – especially about that last hill – Laurel Hill Drive. It seemed to go on forever, and I swear, it was the side of a mountain. I actually dreamed about climbing mountains once I finally did get to sleep – haha.

Race Day

My alarm went off around 5:30, and my first groggy thought was “I thought today was Saturday – why did I set my alarm?”… So, I hit snooze. Then it went off again and I suddenly remembered:  “Oh, right! the race!” and jumped out of bed. That’s the first time that ever happened. And, hopefully the last. Just goes to show, though, in spite of the dreams about mountain climbing, I slept like a rock!

I got dressed, did my hair, gathered all my gadgets, made my coffee and Almond Butter toast and went out the door. I was on the road by 6:15. Chapel Hill is a good 45 minute drive from my house, so I was right on schedule with getting there and parked in time to meet Running Buddy by 7.  At exactly 7, I pulled into a spot and found Running Buddy. We started on our 1+ mile walk to the start line.

We finally got to the start line and decided to make one last pit stop before start. Since I was the veteran, he was looking to me to point him in the direction of the porta-potties – yet, none to be found! The start line wasn’t in the same place, so we wondered around a bit and noticed people coming and going from Kenan Stadium. Nice! A real potty (happy tear). So happy. We took care of business with only seconds to spare and filed into the back of the pack.

The race starts and we are completely in the back – I mean, behind the end of the corral – so we walked a bit (which is why I don’t think the time I’ve seen so far is right – it felt like it was a good minute before we crossed the start mat). We crossed the mat, and then we were off. The crowd was pretty thick at the start – especially since we were at the back, it took us a full 2 miles for the crowd to finally thin – just in time for the first big hill. So, the split times for the first 3 miles were all over 9:00mm, and my goal for the entire race was 90 min or overall average pace of 9:00mm splits all around. I had some work to do, but this hill wasn’t helping!

Running Buddy and I stayed together for a good portion of the next couple of miles, but as I mentioned before, he’s a great hill runner and, while I’m getting better, he just smokes me after about 6 or 7 miles. He finally pulled ahead of me at around 5 1/2 miles. I had him in sight until about mile 7  1/4 or so, which I’m pretty proud of. For miles 4 – 8 1/2, my split times were 8:30 – 8:40 range, which I was very, very happy about.

The route was very scenic – Chapel Hill is a beautiful town. It took us through the campus, up the main thoroughfare (Franklin Street) and through a couple of really beautiful neighborhoods, the last of which was Laurel Hill Road. Now… ok. I’m constantly complaining about hills. I will no longer complain about the puny little hills I have to regularly run in Downtown Raleigh now because they are nothing compared to this. And the event planners knew it. They actually timed a split just for this hill. Mat at the bottom, and another on the top. Called it the “Laurel Hill Challenge” and were handing out prizes to top times in each age bracket. The bottom of the hill was at about 8 1/2 mile marker, the top of it at about 9 1/2, give or take (followed by even more hills). That one mile went from an elevation of 280 ft to 480!!! In one mile! That hurts just to write it. Thank God, THANK GOD, we drove it the night before. I had dreams about this hill and I had anxiety about it the entire first 8 1/2 miles of the race. I even thought at one point that ignorance might have been bliss for me – not knowing what was ahead so I didn’t have to dread it… that is until I got to the bottom of it I looked up it. Had I been blissfully ignorant of it, I might have thought that it was a shorter or less steep hill (it curved so you really can’t see how long or steep from the bottom) and taken it way too fast and had to stop or hurt myself. But… when I got to it and looked up, knowing what I knew, I found it daunting, for sure, but I knew how long it was and I said to myself “just slow down – you only have 1 1/2 miles to go and you’re on target for time” and I took it. It was very tough – very steep at the start (you should see the elevation charts for it) and then it fakes you out with a “flat” part only to be followed by yet another steep (maybe even steeper than the first – who knows, I was so out of it by this point) hill behind a curve. Just mean. I have never, ever, ever been so happy to see a smaller hill in my life as I was when I climbed the hill right after (yes, I said right after) this hill. This is going down in my books as one of the tougher runs I’ve done.

The last 1/2 mile was a complete blur – I kept thinking I was closer to the finish than I was, but when I finally did see the flags for the finish line, I booked it and sprinted in. This is probably the first race in my memory where I didn’t even think or worry about busting my ass during a sprint. The only thing I thought about was “these girls all look like they’re in my age group – I’m totally not coming in behind them” (they weren’t – I’m a poor judge of age after about 5 miles – haha).

Gun time says I was 1:31:32, but Garmin Time says 1:29:47 – I split the difference, I still got pretty close to my goal.

Learnings

ah, yes, always something to learn… I need to learn how to take hills better and how to be faster on them. I need to work on my overall fitness level so that I don’t average a heart rate of 92% for 90 minutes – that can’t be good. I need to get an overall heart-rate  based Vo2 max fitness test done (just need to break down and pay for it) so I have a better idea of where am and what I’m training toward, especially if I want to make it through 47 more half marathons. I did have some hydration issues at the end – still can’t seem to get that formula right, although, the coconut water I brought with me did stave off any tummy and/or hydration issues I had in the past, so maybe that’s starting to work and I just needed to bring more and/or drink more from the onset. I also should try other options like GELs or GUs. I have time this summer to work on those things without a long race to distract me.

Overall, a wonderful, wonderful race and I highly recommend it… and look forward to running it next year (and getting my mug on the JumboTron inside Kenan Stadium!).